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Bass bite best bet as fall season begins

Orobille Waters by Craig Bentley, author badge,

all pattern begins in Oroville area waters as bass bite picks up at Oroville Lake and Afterbay, while kings continue moving through the lower Feather River up into the cooler waters of the low flow. Hunting season opens for deer and quail with drought conditions making it tough going for most hunters.

Lake Oroville
The Lake surface elevation is steady and is now at 672 feet. The surface temperature is 72 degrees. The water is clear up in the river arms and main body and coves with mudlines showing near points when the wind blows. Bidwell Canyon and the auxiliary ramp at the spillway, remain the only two launch ramps open. Four wheel drive vehicles are highly recommended by State Parks officials for launching boats.

All of the Car-top boat access points are closed with the exception of Foreman Creek and Stringtown, where the gates are still open to access the lake. Boaters are advised to call the lake's Visitor Center at (530) 589-2219, to check the daily status of the launch ramps prior to making a trip up to the lake. Like one Deputy Sheriff who said he wouldn't launch his big boat at the spillway, most boaters with boats over 16 feet long are using the Bidwell Canyon ramp to launch their boats.

Fall is underway with cooler temperatures forecast again for the later part of the week. Sunny with a few clouds with daytime temps forecast to be from 58 to 64 in the mornings with highs 76 to 86 in the afternoons, cooling to the low eighties by Sunday. Winds will be south at 5 to 8 mph early in the week, then easterly mornings and evenings, at 5 to 7 mph through the end of the week, then calm on the weekend.

A few more boats are now going out on the lake as bass fishing continues to improve. Brent Cline at Oroville Outdoors said an all-day top water bite has started on the lake with anglers catching some nice fish in the shade lines along steep walls, or long points, on poppers and buzz baits. Bass are holding at 20 to 40 feet deep and some schools of fish as deep as seventy feet. Fairly decent action continues while fishing the finesse bait bite, near steep walls, ledges, points, drop-offs and structure. Anglers are drop-shotting small tubes, Senko's, four-inch worms, hula grubs, small curl tailed grubs and small paddle-tail swim-baits on light line to catch 25 to 35 bass, 13 to 15 inches and larger, during a session for two anglers. Natural colors and earth tone baits like watermelon, pumpkin, oxblood and brown are working.

King salmon fishing has been slowing one day to the next with trollers trying to scratch out a few fish at the usual spots. The fish are scattered all over the main body of the lake and boaters trolling lures down at 60 to 70 foot mark and deeper, over 100 to 150 foot depths may catch a fish or two for a few hours effort in the mornings. Many regulars have given up and are fishing elsewhere.

Salmon may being caught while trolling over submerged islands or structure, in the river forks mouths, the slot and west of the green bridge, when fishing is good. The best tactic is to try and find bait schools then troll your gear just under the bait. White has been the preferred color in lure choice. Speedy Shiners, Berkley Power minnows, Apex lures or Hoochies-tipped with a piece of anchovy, rigged behind a medium sized dodger, trolled at 50 to 70 feet, at 1.9 to 2.2 mph has been working for both salmon and trout.

Diversion Pool
The fishing remains quiet here with reports of very slow fishing coming in. Releases from Oroville Dam have been fluctuating around 1440 cfs. Try casting and retrieving minnow imitations: soft plastics, stick baits, or spoons, or fish bait for the trout or salmon. Fishing is usually better when flows are up. Please note that DWR advises that flows can increase without notice and flows are subject to change throughout the day. No wading, swimming or floatation devices are allowed on this water above the buoy line that spans the pool, 100 yards below the spillway.

Thermalito Forebay
No recent reports have come in from the Forebay. Trout, salmon, bass, catfish and other species of rough-fish are present in the Forebay. Some transient trout and salmon that have moved down from the diversion pool to the South Forebay are occasionally caught on bait by patient anglers enjoying the solitude of this little used facility off of Grand Avenue. Aquatic weed growth is out of control here because of the low flows moving through the complex this year.

Thermalito Afterbay
Largemouth bass bite continues and steelhead are stirring in north basin at Afterbay. Pool elevation is now over 135 feet. The water temperature is 70 to 75 degrees back in the coves with cooler water at 59 coming from the Thermalito canal. There's about five feet of visibility. Steelhead fishing has been slow to fair. Anglers report fishing can be okay one day and dead slow the next. Some anglers reported seeing fish cruising the shoreline in the Wilbur road canal, but couldn't get them to bite.

For steelhead, boaters have been trolling with a threaded nightcrawler behind a dodger or drifting a fly-lined nightcrawler at ten to fifteen feet deep, along the west wall of the Afterbay or in the channels in front of the outlets, north of the Highway 162 bridge and the mouth of the inlet canal. A few Coho salmon averaging 3 to 4 pounds have occasionally been caught in the canal by Wilbur Road. Anglers use pink Gulp eggs, with a nightcrawler or scented marshmallow, using a three foot leader and a sliding sinker setup, while bank fishing for steelhead trout or coho salmon.

Bass fishing has been decent and the size of fish caught has been better. Small bass up to three and four pounds have been hanging out in the coves, on the edges of the tules or weed mattes and along the rocks. Best action last week has been between either casting buzz baits, or working jigs in the rocks. Senko's and drop-shotting small plastic minnows or tubes, off the rock walls has been working too.

The topwater bite continues and the fish are hitting Pop-R's or Spook Jr's. Productive techniques used here include casting crank baits, spinner baits, chatter baits and flipping Brush Hogs, Super Flukes, Sweet Beavers, Senko's or other creature baits into the tules or rocks. There are some fish that will go two to five pounds, a lot of three to four pounders with mostly smaller bass of one to two pounds being caught.

Feather River
A few salmon are still being caught and steelhead fishing is picking up as continued reduced flows remain in place on the Feather River.*The 2015 King salmon season opened July 16, with a limit of two salmon per day, with a maximum possession of four salmon. Open water is from the boat ramp above the Afterbay Outlet, downstream to 200 yards above the Live Oak boat ramp at Pennington Road.

* Fishing for the king salmon is closed all year in the Low Flow above the Outlet. There is no allowance for any catch and release fishing that targets salmon when this stretch of river is closed to salmon fishing. The reach of the Feather River above the Hwy 70 Bridge, to the Table Mountain Bicycle Bridge in Oroville is now closed to fishing for all species, from July 15, 2015 to Jan. 1, 2016.

Below the Hwy 70 Bridge, the Feather River is open year around for steelhead, trout, bass, catfish and panfish. Check DFW regulations for species limits, gear restrictions and salmon regulations.

Flows are now 800 cfs in the Low flow at Oroville, with 400 cfs being released from the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, for a total of 1200 cfs below the Outlet. The project total outflow is 1700 cfs. The Gridley gauge data showed 975 cfs at the time of this writing, which is way too low for safe powerboat operation and certainly technical for those rowing drift boats down the wide, low water. Propeller driven boats are not recommended below 3500 cfs. Remember that release changes can occur without notice.

The water temperature has cooled down some and is now at 51 to 55 degrees at station FRA in the Low Flow. This is because releases to the river are coming from a depth near the bottom of the lake. Below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet at station FOW, the sensor remains offline with no current data available. The water is tinted green in the Low Flow with about five to six feet of visibility and below the Thermalito Afterbay Outlet, the water is clear with about five feet of visibility.

An increase of flows has been announced by the South Feather Water and Power Company with the sale of ten thousand acre feet of water to state water contractors, which is supposed to happen after Oct.1st. However, the actual release date and flow volume to the river has not yet been announced by DWR. Fishing should improve on the Feather River below Oroville when and if this water delivery, said to take about three weeks, occurs during the open season.

Fall run kings were moving through the upper river below the Afterbay Outlet, but the bite remains tough. Best action for boaters continues to be on large plugs, like the T-55 Flatfish in the legal pre-dawn hour before the sun gets on the water, or the last half-hour of legal fishing time at dusk. Most boaters are using Flatfish or Kwikfish with a sardine wrap, but a few are jigging. The salmon are stopping briefly at the top of the legal open water above the Afterbay Outlet before moving up into the cooler water in the Low flow.
As usual the fish are moving with the full and new moons as conditions allow them to migrate upriver.

The river being low allows waders to access nearly the entire stretch through the Oroville State Wildlife Area. While it’s tough to get a good drift, fish are being caught by wading anglers that are lining fish with long leaders and very light weights in the riffles. Some anglers are fishing jigs in deeper water below the Afterbay Outlet. A few are using roe and sand shrimp under floats with some success on salmon.

The river is going into the Fall pattern with some trout biting early and late in the day in the heads of riffles after holding in the deeper runs during middle of the day. Local anglers have been taking a some trout and steelhead to 21 inches, or 3 or 4 pounds, as fishing starts to pick up while fishing in the "Low Flow", however, fishing has been slow for large adult steelhead.

For trout or steelhead try side drifting nightcrawlers with a size 14 Corky, small clusters of cured roe, or Glo-bugs, single eggs, or try soaking roe in the deeper pools, mid-day. Fly fishers can try Glo-bugs, trout beads followed by a size 14 Birdsnests, olive or tan Fox Poohpahs, soft hackle emergers and San Juan Worms. Small Steelhead and trout have been rising to caddis and mayflies in the early morning in the upper river. There's been little boat traffic on the river below the Hwy. 162 Bridge. Most drift boaters fly fish nymphs or egg patterns under strike indicators, or swing streamers when fishing for trout or steelhead in the Low Flow.

* Please note that only hatchery trout (those fish under 16 inches) and hatchery steelhead may be taken from the Feather. Wild fish- (those with an adipose fin) must be released. The daily bag limit is 2 hatchery trout, or steelhead, with a maximum of 4 in possession.

Oroville State Wildlife Area ponds were kicking out a few bass, bluegill and sunfish for anglers fishing the ponds near weed beds or stickups. No recent reports have come in. Grass mats are thinning some. Use small chatter-baits, buzz baits, topwater lures, creature baits or nightcrawlers for bass and red worms or small flies for the bluegill or sunfish.

The General Hunting Season is now open in the Oroville State Wildlife Area.

*The Wildlife Area Hunting season opened Tuesday September 1st.

Hunting has been tough with the extremely dry habitat conditions due to the drought.

*Rabbit season is open, however hunters should beware of Tularemia disease in rabbits until after a hard frost and use nitrile gloves to handle any rabbit they decide to take.

*D-3 Deer Season opened Sept. 26 in the Oroville State Wildlife Area. Shotgun with lead free Slugs only.

*Tree Squirrel season opened Sept. 12 with a limit of 4 per day.

* Mountain Quail Zone Q-1 season opened Sep.13, Valley Quail opens Oct.18.

*Non-Lead Shot shells only are permitted for hunting on state lands.

**See regulations regarding Hunting and area use at Ca. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, online webpage.

Craig Bentley has been an outdoor writer, photographer, outfitter and fishing guide for over twenty years in Northern California. Based out of Oroville, his articles, perspectives, reports and stories on fishing have been featured in many outdoor publications as well as local newspapers and radio talk shows. Craig can be reached via e-mail at His report was posted courtesy of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce.

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